It's something you don't see everyday — a fourteen meter tall Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made out of recycled bottles and strings of lights powered by the twelve stationary bicycles that surround it.
But it's something you would see if you went to Piazza Nettuno in Bologna, a cosmopolitan university city in northern Italy. The project is the result of a northern Italian environmental collaboration: while Bologna has supplied the space, the bikes and the lights, the tree itself comes from Bolzano, a northern Italian city famous for its beautiful pine forests. Rigged with a complex lighting system that converts the kinetic energy from active bicycles into electrical energy to power the outer strands of the Christmas lights, the tree has been modernized to become as "green" as a Christmas tree can get — and is dazzling the citizens of Bologna with its eco-friendly message.
How does it work? Twelve recycled bicycles ring the tree's perimeter, eight for adults and four for children. Twelve corresponding red wires connect the bicycles to the outer strings of Christmas lights on the tree, so that when any enterprising onlooker decides to take a ride, he or she can see the tree light up in response. To make it even better, each bike has a meter attached to it that tells the rider how much energy he or she is producing from peddling. It's a do-it-yourself tree trimming that even the trees can get behind.
And the project certainly has struck a chord with the citizens of Bologna as something extraordinary and new — especially since the city has other electric light decorations on the streets that are in no way as eco-friendly in concept as this one. Designed by Francesa Lenzi, a bioarchitect and member of Cinquerosso design studio
, and Mario Nanni, head of Viabizzuno lighting studio
, the tree is just one of several green adventures that the Italian design scene has embarked upon. Others by Cinquerosso have included this amazing three-story tree house
made out of recycled materials in the hills outside of Bologna.
Although the tree certainly by no means signals an across-the-board downsizing in the electrical lighting demands associated with the Christmas season (in Italy or elsewhere), it does give onlookers some food for thought when it comes to this conspicuously consumptive holiday. And while all of us at home can't be expected to ride our bikes to power our lights, there are some simple things we can do to save energy this holiday season: LED Christmas lights, putting your Christmas lights on a timer and stringing up your lights up later rather than sooner might all be good ways to reduce the energy and environmental costs of the Christmas holiday.
To find out more about the energy costs of lighting up your tree, click here
Broken or worn out lights? Recycle them! Find out more here
Photos: Alexia Nader, Marco Rondinini